While the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championships isn’t even half over, plans are already bouncing around for the 2022 event.
The tournament was originally scheduled to take place in Edmonton and Red Deer this year but was moved solely to a bubble in Edmonton because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There have been hitches in the 2021 event, with a few European teams battling COVID-19 cases before the games started and no fans in the stands.
That hasn’t stopped organizers from imagining a bigger, better and more engaged tournament, when it returns to Edmonton and hopefully Red Deer next Christmas.
“That was our biggest disappointment is that we weren’t able to host in Red Deer. Next year we’re going to find a way to make it bigger and better. We feel like we wanted to host games as much as we can in Red Deer this year, it just couldn’t happen. I think next year will be awesome there,” said Riley Wiwchar, executive director for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.
“It’s going to be a can’t miss event by that time.”
One of the most talked-about parts of the 2021 tournament has undoubtedly been the online 50/50 draw.
Made popular during the NHL playoffs when the Edmonton Oilers draw had a take-home prize of $5.4 million, Hockey Canada adopted the idea for the world juniors. So far, only one prize during round-robin play has fetched lower than $130,000 for the winner.
“I think we had some good learning from the other draws that have taken place over the past six months… historically in Alberta, 50/50 always seems to go well, even back to the 2012 world juniors when it was crazy then,” said Wiwchar.
“I think we had some expectations, I would say that the consistency of the pots has been a bit of a surprise. Every day seems to be a really good pot.”
Hockey Canada also announced Wednesday that the 50/50 draw for New Year’s Eve will start at over $500,000.
“We are excited that the 50/50 draw on New Year’s Eve is guaranteed to be the largest jackpot to date for fans in Alberta,” said Wiwchar.
“The World Juniors 50/50 draw has been a success since the first draw on Dec. 22, but we know fans will be thrilled about the possibility of heading into the new year as the lucky winner of the largest World Juniors 50/50 jackpot to date.”
That prize is big for the average hockey fan, but it’s also a huge boost for the Hockey Alberta Foundation as they have collected more than $1 million through six days of the draw.
The foundation partnered with Hockey Canada for the online 50/50 draw and a lot of the money raised this year will go towards existing programs like Every Kid Every Community and the Future Leaders Development Program. Many of the foundation’s usual fundraisers for those initiatives didn’t go ahead because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, Wiwchar said they plan to use some of the money to establish legacy programs across the province, to help more hockey more accessible for all Albertans.
“Because we’re hosting again next year, we’re trying to build a long term plan that we can really use that money in a good way for the next couple years,” he said.
“Throughout the whole province, grassroots and also trying to get people involved in the game. People that normally wouldn’t have the chance to play hockey– we’re trying to find ways to get them into the game.”
Canada had a day off from play Wednesday and will play its final round-robin game Thursday against Finland before the quarterfinals start Friday.